NFOIC's State FOIA Friday for September 20, 2013

September 20, 2013 11:19 AM

From NFOIC:  A few state FOIA and local open government news items selected from many of interest that we might or might not have drawn attention to earlier in the week. While you're at it, be sure to check out State FOIA Friday Archives.

York (VA) supervisors' planned secret meetings with business execs raise questions

image of Access keyYORK, VA — A request by the parent company of the former Yorktown refinery to meet privately and secretly with members of the York County Board of Supervisors next week has raised questions about open government practices and what's next for the facility. According to emails between York County officials and the supervisors, executives from Texas-based Plains All American Pipeline requested to meet with members of the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 27. The purpose of the meeting, according to the emails, is to brief the supervisors on the improvements and plans for the facility, which the company is converting to an oil transportation terminal.

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Arizona Republic, 12 News sue for Yarnell records

The Arizona Republic and 12 News have filed suit against the Yavapai County Sheriff’s and Medical Examiner’s offices over their refusal to release investigative records from the Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy that left 19 hotshots dead. The two Gannett news organizations allege in a civil complaint filed Wednesday in Yavapai County Superior Court that diagrams, some photographs and other documents are public records under state law, and Arizona residents have a compelling interest in learning what led to the demise of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots nearly three months ago.

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Editorial: Open meetings should stay open (VA)

Last week, Virginia’s FOIA Advisory Council declined to take up Hanover County’s request to review the definition of a public meeting. Hanover’s seven-member board of supervisors originally voted to ask the legislature to change the statute that prohibits more than two elected officials from meeting to discuss public business, a change that would impact every elected body in the state and would diminish transparency in every county, city and incorporated town.

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University of Washington fined $723,000 for withholding records

SEATTLE (AP) — A King County judge fined the University of Washington $723,000 for withholding public records from a faculty member who sued because she believed she was wrongfully denied tenure at the Tacoma campus. The documents turned up after Isabelle Bichindaritz lost her discrimination lawsuit in federal court, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

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Future bright for open data movement (CA)

California is home to the Innovation capital of the world—the Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs and innovators spend countless hours creating new technology that brings the people closer to their state and local governments. That technology, coupled with a raised expectation with citizens for more transparency and accountability, has ignited a movement called open data or open government. Municipalities throughout the state have moved to provide data to the people. San Francisco is one of the first cities to hire a Chief Innovation Officer. The City also has an open data policy. The city of Palo Alto has an extensive open data platform.

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The News Tribune wins Washington First Amendment award

SEATTLE (AP) — The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., is the winner of this year's Ted Natt First Amendment Award for its commitment to fighting for access to public records and the principles of open government. The award presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association in Seattle honored the paper for its defense of the First Amendment and deep reporting on a wide range of issues.

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Editorial: A victory for open government in Washington

During last fall’s general election, we were heartened that both candidates for state attorney general, Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn, promised to restore to full-time status the position of open government assistant attorney general. Ferguson won the election, and this week he made good on the promise. Then-Attorney General Rob McKenna created the position in 2005 to help the public get better access to government information. The job also is designed to assist in resolving disputes and to answer questions from the public, media and government staff. Budget cutbacks during the recent economic recession prompted McKenna to make the job half-time.

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Springfield (IL) police chief says he resisted document destruction

Soon-to-be-retired Springfield Police Chief Robert Williams voiced concerns about destroying certain internal affairs files but was overruled, according to a transcript of his sworn deposition obtained by The State Journal-Register. Williams said the decision to shred the files, including those of now-Deputy Chief Cliff Buscher, came during a meeting attended by then-Corporation Counsel Mark Cullen, Buscher, Williams and Bill Logan, the mayor’s executive assistant.

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Local women's league sponsors FOIA forum (VA)

Today, for the first time at the local level, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County will be sponsoring an event for the public on open government and the Freedom of Information Act. It is a topic that affects all citizens, but by being more informed, community members can make an even bigger difference in local government.

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N.M. open government group sues to force audit release

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by providers of mental health and substance abuse services. The Human Services Department has frozen payments to more than a dozen behavioral health providers because of the fraud allegations.

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